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Coal consumption likely to rise as growing demand for electricity generation in developing countries

December 17, 2019

By Paul Homewood



While Matt McGrath deludes himself in Madrid, the IEA reveal the stark reality:



Coal consumption is set to rise in the coming years as growing demand for electricity in developing countries outpaces a shift to cleaner sources of electricity in industrialised nations.

While use of the most polluting fossil fuel had a historic dip in 2019, the International Energy Agency anticipates steady increases in the next five years. That means the world will face a significant challenge in meeting pledges to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming.

Annual coal report

“There are few signs of change,” the agency wrote in its annual coal report released in Paris on Tuesday. “Despite all the policy changes and announcements, our forecast is very similar to those we have made over the past few years.”

While this year is on track for biggest decline ever for coal power, that is mostly due to high growth in hydroelectricity and relatively low electricity demand in India and China, said Carlos Fernandez Alvarez, senior energy analyst at the Paris-based IEA.

Despite the drop, global coal consumption is likely to rise over the coming years, driven by demand in India, China and Southeast Asia. Power generation from coal rose almost 2% in 2018 to reach an all-time high, remaining the world’s largest source of electricity.

Waning demand in industrialised nations

The steady outlook for coal comes in spite of waning demand in industrialised nations. Europe has set a goal of zeroing out carbon pollution by the middle of the century, which would mean drastic reductions for coal. In the US, competition from natural gas has cut into demand for coal, despite President Donald Trump’s vows to revive the industry.

The story is different in Asia, which will more than make up for reductions elsewhere. India, with a population of more than 1.3 billion, will see coal generation increase by 4.6% a year through 2024 to help power its growing economy. In Southeast Asia coal demand will grow more than 5% annually. China, which accounts for almost half the world’s consumption, will also have modest growth with usage peaking in 2022.

“How we address this issue in Asia is critical for the long-term success of any global efforts to reduce emissions,” Fatih Birol, the IEA’s executive director, wrote in a foreword to the report.

Growing power demand

Any new coal plants added to meet the growing power demand in these countries will likely be in use for decades. Even as China’s coal consumption slows and then declines after 2022, emissions from the fuel would need to rapidly decline in order to meet climate targets.

Under current policies, the world is set to warm almost 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century. That’s double the rate scientists say is needed to constrain the worst impacts of climate change. To prevent those increases, it would be necessary to use technology that captures and stores carbon as it’s emitted from power plants, the IEA said. While the technology is expensive and untested at scale. But with coal here to stay, it may be the only option to reduce emissions.


The IEA confirm what I said a few weeks ago about coal stats for this year. That is, that coal power has stalled in China and India, largely because of greater hydro power, (and also nuclear in China), along with slowing demand.

But, assuming economic growth picks up again, demand for coal power will continue to increase in Asia.

They also correctly make the point that new coal plants added recently or due soon will inevitably be in use for decades.

  1. December 17, 2019 7:09 pm

    Reblogged this on Climate-

  2. st3ve permalink
    December 17, 2019 7:16 pm

    So, do we throw our hands in the air and give up – or crack on harder – to develop a solution that can work with these emerging nations’ ambitions for more power & energy.

    • December 17, 2019 7:30 pm

      Wake me up when youve found a solution!

      In the meantime, they should be allowed to prioritise their own needs

    • The Man at the Back permalink
      December 17, 2019 7:58 pm

      Well st3ve – in some respects it probably doesn’t matter. It will be what it will be. Having been a Lukewarmer for 30 years, I have watched the likely effect of CO2 decrease steadily until it might be that it will be so small it will be well inside the error and thus almost impossible to measure.

      At the start of the UN’s drive to pin what is mostly natural warming on the human race, they were tasked with exploring the Greenhouse Effect. They never did, they just assumed they knew, because that was what they wanted to believe. At the first big conference in 1991, a Danish scientist asked to present a paper showing the high correlation between the Solar Index and the Earth’s average temp. Every paper actually presented was AGW based. – it is the only answer they wanted and despite hundreds of papers over the years showing the link, they still ignore it. It is inconvenient. They continue to allocate warming from natural sources to the column marked AGW. It is a missing variable fraud – if you did it in accountancy you would go to prison.

      More than a decade ago a Dutch engineer showed that the temperature changes of the late 20th century were likely due to a 5% reduction in cloud cover over time, and thus greater insolation. Svensmark has postulated the mechanism (solar wind and cosmic ray interaction) and it is thought that the solar index in that half century was the highest in the Holocene interglacial, reducing cloud nucleation enough to cause the warming.

      I think, as do most who worship at NALOPKT, that we should always be striving for more efficiency in our use of energy and maybe the latest nuclear ideas will be fruitful. So called renewables will not cut the mustard.

  3. Stonyground permalink
    December 17, 2019 7:44 pm

    A solution to what St3ve? Surely you must be aware by now that there isn’t actually a problem. The notion that man made CO2 emissions have the slightest effect on global temperatures has been falsified. Unless of course the polar ice caps have melted, millions have been displaced by rising sea levels, Britain has a Mediterranean climate and I just haven’t noticed.

  4. December 17, 2019 8:38 pm

    Since you are interested in coal-burning plants…….


  5. December 17, 2019 9:00 pm

    via @RogerLongstaff Current electricity generation in GB (from Gridwatch):

    Gas: 53%
    Nuclear: 12%
    Coal: 9%
    Wind: 5%
    The rest biomass, hydro, pumped and interconnectors.
    Solar: nothing of course
    ….. And it hasn’t got really cold yet.

  6. December 17, 2019 9:04 pm

    Meanwhile BBC Radion Humberside news and Look North Hull have been pushing the idea that Big turbines are “going to make electricity cheaper”

    Here they hide behind a joke ‘we are not really promoting them’

    • December 17, 2019 9:22 pm

      Of course the BBC local enviro guy is well into the cult
      so does another promo tweet

    • December 17, 2019 9:23 pm

      And another

      • Mack permalink
        December 17, 2019 11:32 pm

        And what, Stew, will our bill payers be forking out for this monstrosity per kWh, in comparison to an existing, simple gas fired ‘onshore’ power station? Not including transmission costs, wind variables and over hyped capacity & maintenance factors that never seem to be factored in in Green La La Land!

  7. December 17, 2019 9:19 pm

    I am not sure you people in England even get my posts I have had zero replies.Didn’t BBC just say coal usage was down? Maybe for only this year. Dr Patrick Moore on you tube staed in one of his videos that South Africa was making coal into a liquid form ,they had the technology. Someone should look into that.It could be the answer for coal emissions..

    • December 17, 2019 9:51 pm

      I analysed the coal power “slow down” a month ago:

      As the IEA noted, the slow down is largely illusory, due to a jupmp in hydro power this year in Chins and India (more rainfall), along with a slowdown in economic growth.

      Of course, we are finding new ways to use coal much more efficiently, such as HELE coal power plants and coal to gas technology, which you mention.

      There is nothing new in this – the world has been growing more efficient and productive, both in energy usage and everything else, in leaps and bounds for centuries now, that is why we are so much better off than our forefathers.

      But it has nothing to do with ” solving the emissions problem”.

    • Stuart Brown permalink
      December 17, 2019 9:57 pm

      George, people read stuff…

      Since the blackout we had in August we have been burning coal a lot to keep some spinning inertia in play (I believe). 4GW of coal most of today and pathetically little wind or solar. Do you have a link to the BBC article? gives a wealth of info on what generated what & when if you want the truth.

      As for making liquid fuel from coal, that’s the Fischer Tropsch process invented in Germany and used by the South Africans when people wouldn’t sell them oil. Works fine, but doesn’t reduce emissions – the CO2 still ends up in the air.

      • Gerry, England permalink
        December 18, 2019 1:35 pm

        Could this be history – the first time a lesson has been learnt when they tried to 50% wind power?

  8. Brembo permalink
    December 18, 2019 9:16 am

    All very interesting but totally irrelevent in any climate change discussion we have yet to be shown any SCIENIFICALLY SOUND evidence linking climate change to man made CO2 which amounts to a spot of dirt on an elephants backside.
    Inconvienient fact CO2 is not the primary greenhouse gas.

  9. Gerry, England permalink
    December 18, 2019 1:36 pm

    That can be the problem with reality – not turning out how you hoped.

  10. It doesn't add up... permalink
    December 18, 2019 4:33 pm

    I suspect we have more coal burn than normal simply because Aberthaw power station is due to close in March. Any coal left in the coal yard at that point would have a very low value, and could even be a cost to dispose of. So long as running the power station covers the carbon floor price and other marginal costs, it is probably economic. The value of the coal is what it would realise on disposal, not what it costs to buy in more supply.

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